Friday, June 21, 2024
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“It’s Getting Worse” Fort Lauderdale Residents Lament City’s Homelessness Crisis

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A picture of Fort Lauderdale Florida
Source: Pinterest

“It’s Getting Worse” Fort Lauderdale Residents Lament City’s Homelessness Crisis

Source: Pinterest

Residents and business owners in Fort Lauderdale Florida are getting fed up with the city’s homelessness crisis, complaining that it is hurting their livelihoods and businesses.
A new Florida state law is set to go into effect that will ban homeless people from sleeping in public, but a current case in the Supreme Court may threaten its enforceability depending on how the court rules.

Mini California

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Bernie Bedor, who owns a business in north Fort Lauderdale, has been writing consistent emails hoping city officials will do something about the homelessness problem.
“We take investors down to the beach and they see homeless people in tents,” Bedor told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “No one wants to invest in a mini-California. There’s a tent city next to the new police station they’re building. You have people going to the bathroom on the sidewalk. It’s like a free-for-all-all. And it’s very bad for business.”

Bedor’s Efforts

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Roughly 2,847 people were living on the streets of Broward County, according to the Florida Department of Health, and the problem is only becoming more obvious in the county’s largest city.

Bernie Bedor has been sending photographs of homeless people defecating on sidewalks and sleeping on the beach to City Hall, beseeching officials to take action.

"It's Getting Worse and Worse"

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Bedor is frustrated that the homeless crisis in Fort Lauderdale is making it difficult for residents to afford the cost of doing business.
“It’s getting worse and worse here in Fort Lauderdale,” Bedor said. “It’s not that we’re not empathetic. But it’s to the point now where we’re having to pay $30,000 a year for private security to patrol our buildings at night. That cost is being passed on to the business owners.”

It's Hurting Businesses

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Local real estate agent Charlie King shared photos he had taken of a undressed homeless man peering into a home window, including one taken where the man is in front of one of King’s “For Sale” signs with the Sun Sentinel.
“It’s embarrassing to have this going on in the city,” said King, a longtime critic of homelessness in Fort Lauderdale. “It hurts business. It makes people not want to live in Fort Lauderdale.”

Lewd Acts

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King also had photos of people walking along the beach while barely dressed. Also, he shared pictures of a man defecating on a sidewalk in the middle of the day.
“I saw a homeless couple having sex at the bus stop at Federal Highway and Commercial Boulevard,” King said. “No one wants to see this in the middle of our town.”

Government Response

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The Mayor of Fort Lauderdale Dean Trantalis has been working to come up with a solution that would work for both residents and the homeless, but progress has been slow.
“We’re doing our best,” Trantalis said. “The problem we have is finding a shelter for homeless people. And we rely on the county to provide that. We do not have enough shelter to house homeless people.”

Ticking Clock

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The new Florida law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in March 2024, that would ban people from sleeping on sidewalks, parks, and other public spaces has started a ticking clock for Fort Lauderdale officials to figure out a solution.
Once the new state law kicks in, authorities in Fort Lauderdale will be forced to act to curb people sleeping outdoors and will need a proper plan in place for how the city will deal with the homeless gatherings.

The US Supreme Court Hearing

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Currently, the United States Supreme Court Is hearing a case from a town in Oregon that banned people from sleeping on public land. The law was stopped due to an amendment challenge that asserted the ordinance constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” and violated the US Constitution.
The court, if it gives a ruling, could create a legal precedent that would decide for the country whether cities and other entities would be allowed to penalize or criminalize homelessness under their laws.

Tied Hands

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While some residents and business owners would like to have laws in Fort Lauderdale criminalizing homeless activities, officials say that the recent court rulings have tied their hands to the issue.
“We really won’t know if sleeping on the sidewalk is against the law until we get the ruling from the Supreme Court,” Commissioner John Herbst said. “When they hand down the Grants Pass ruling, then we’ll know whether the state law is legitimate or not. We’re waiting for the Supreme Court. But even after that, we have to have a place to put them. And Fort Lauderdale can’t be the only place.”

City Ideas

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One idea that has been floated previously was to open the county stockade near Chase Stadium to house the homeless population, though some are concerned with the impact on nearby neighborhoods.
“We can’t bury our heads in the sand and say, ‘No, we can’t consider it,’” Commissioner Herbst said. “I think it’s better than sleeping on a park bench. Right now I’m sitting in front of the stockade and looking at the barbed wire. But I’d prefer to be in a safe environment with barbed wire than being out there on the street.”

People Fleeing San Francisco

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Herbst feels that the city cannot just stand by and do nothing. He recalled a trip he took to San Francisco and was appalled by the way the city has changed due to the homelessness crisis.
“As I walked down the street, I saw people defecating on the street,” said Herbst. “They had tents up. There were piles of trash everywhere. It has taken one of the greatest cities in the country and made it uninhabitable. People are fleeing San Francisco.”

Praying for Things to Turn Around

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Brenda Bertnoli, owner of a strip center near a county library, has had to hire private security just to protect tenants and property from incidents with the homeless population who has moved in there. Bertnoli hopes the new Florida law can turn things around.
“I pray that the law does,” Bertnoli said. “We have tents everywhere, on the beach and downtown. We’re becoming a mini-San Francisco.”